Africa’s senior Greek Orthodox leader died in a helicopter crash along with about sixteen other people. Patriarch Petros the Seventh of Alexandria, Egypt, will be remembered for promoting the growth of the Greek Orthodox church in Africa and preaching harmony between Christians and Muslims.
Patriarch Petros was born in Sichari, Cyprus, on September 3rd, 1949, and entered the monastery of Macheras at the age of twelve. After becoming a deacon in 1969, he was sent to Alexandria to serve under Patriarch Nicolaos the Sixth. He studied theology in Athens and was ordained a priest in 1978. During his years in Africa, Patriarch Petros held posts that served church members in South Africa, West Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Cameroon.
Patriarch Petros was enthroned as the one-hundred-fifteenth Patriarch and Pope of Alexandria and all Africa in 1997.
As there were only about three-hundred-thousand Greek Orthodox church members in Africa throughout his tenure, Petros was sensitive to the church’s minority status. He spoke about the need for mutual respect and understanding between Greek Orthodoxy and Islam, saying, “The world is tired of religious wars and conflicts.”
Emphasizing that the Orthodox Church had lived for centuries alongside Islam, Patriarch Petros said, “Christians and Muslims are duty-bound to respect each other’s religious beliefs and overcome antagonistic feelings. We must strive for solidarity if we are to resolve the problems facing the world, for the earth is the common home of all nations wherein we are called to worship the one true God.”
Patriarch Petros’ life remains an example of good will and tolerance for leaders everywhere.